That sense of ambiguity is prevalent throughout, thanks primarily to Maldonaldo’s introverted performance. A narcissist who, upon discovering his freedom, will stop at nothing to showcase a hollow personality, Jaime intermittently displays traces of a deeper, more complex individual. Counterbalancing him perfectly is Alfredo Castro, whose Potro ignites the screen, magnetic and dangerous, yearning for freedom, despondent about his past. This lack of a clear protagonist oddly propels the story along.
A tormented shriek into the void, The Prince is heavy, both thematically and visually, at times oppressively so. Moments of respite are rare amidst the doom and gloom. Muñoz’s art directing roots are evident: he pulls you into the dank prison milieu, makes you long for a ray of sunshine, makes you wince at the torture the guards inflict upon Potro. Similarly, the sex depicted here is often violent; the men colliding against each other in a frenzied, painful, orgasmic rush. Muñoz’s film may be tackling a lot–an indictment of an oppressive regime, a bleak look inside a prison, a character study, a thriller, among other things – but it aims high and manages to graze, if not hit, most of its targets.
“…it aims high and manages to graze, if not hit, most of its targets.”
There are particularly striking moments worth mentioning. Potro’s significant other – a woman – embraces him on visitor’s day, while Jaime tells someone to never come back again. Jaime’s first sexual encounter with an older sugar momma is awkward and sad. The flashback sequence leading up to Jaime’s crime, while predictable, is tautly executed. Muñoz and his co-writer Luis Barrales create some lovely passages. “If you learn to play an instrument,” Potro says, “you’ll never be alone again.” Another character waxes poetic about his smile: “You want to know a secret? I stole this smile. I went to a fair, near the 18th bus stop…”
The Prince will stay with you long after its credits roll, a metallic aftertaste, a weight on the soul. Yes, original films set in prison can still be produced. I’ll take a flawed but impassioned project like The Prince over crap like Imprisoned any day.
"…moments of respite are rare amidst the doom and gloom."